In "Camp X-Ray," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, the actress stars as Amy Cole, a guard stationed at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. prison in Cuba detaining terrorist suspects.
In the film Stewart takes an elbow to the face, is spit on and is splattered with feces.
But she learns such treatment is nothing compared to the harsh reality of the detainees, namely innocent prisoner Ali Amir, played by Peyman Moaadi, who she befriends.
"Are we doing the female soldier movie of our generation?" posed Stewart in a recent phone interview. "It gets that idea across, but it doesn't feel pushy. It's mad topical."
In a Q&A following the film's debut, Lane Garrison, who also plays a soldier in the film, said working on the movie shifted his thinking of Gitmo.
"I had a belief that everyone down there was responsible for 911," said Garrison. "After doing this film I started asking questions about Guantanamo Bay and come to find out that there are still men down there that no country wants and I started thinking 'What if there is a guy down there that is innocent that's not a terrorist. Does he deserve that day in court. It changed me to start asking questions and not just go along with the flow."
First-time filmmaker Peter Sattler said he got the inspiration for "Camp X-Ray" after watching documentary footage of a guard and a detainee talking about books on a library cart.
To prepare for the role of Ali, Moaadi says he "stayed in a prison cell for a couple of hours each day" while on location at an abandoned juvenile prison in Whittier, Calif. "I got let out for this," he joked.
Sattler originally intended Stewart's role for a male, but he shifted to a female lead because he felt it created more conflict between Amy and Ali. "And Muslims' extremist relationship toward women also complicated (the story)," he said. "So I clicked into that."
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